TCS Daily


Blood and Soil

By Jan Arlid Snoen - July 2, 2002 12:00 AM

OSLO -- In May the prominent Dutch rightwing populist Pim Fortuyn was shot to death. The suspected perpetrator is an animal rights activist. This marks the first high-profile murder committed by radical environmentalists in Europe. Sadly, it will probably not be last.

Norwegian philosopher Arne Naess coined the term "deep ecology" in 1972 to express the idea that nature has intrinsic value, apart from its usefulness to human beings. This distinction between a biocentric and human-centered -- anthropocentric -- perspective has been hotly debated in the environmental movement ever since. In its most extreme form, a biocentric perspective leads to utter disregard for human welfare. David Foreman, the founder of the deep ecology organisation appropriately named Earth First!, notoriously called for humanitarian organisations to sit back and watch Ethiopians starve to death during the famine of 1987: "The worst thing we could do in Ethiopia is to give aid [to the starving children] -- the best thing would be to just let nature seek its own balance, to let people there just starve."

Ingrid Newkirk, the founder of the anti-fur animal rights organisation PETA sees people as parasites. "Humans have grown like a cancer. We're the biggest blight on the face of the earth," she told Reader's Digest in June 1990. In 1983 she explained to the Washington Post that the lives of individuals have no value, only the survival of the species: "I am not a morose person, but I would rather not be here. I don't have any reverence for life, only for the entities themselves. I would rather see a blank space where I am."

For some, a biocentric perspective logically leads to the use of violence to defend other species or the planet biosphere against human misconduct. The Animal Liberation Front (ALF) explicitly advocates violence against property, and has been behind a number of violent attacks both in Europe and the U.S. In 1987, Tim Daley, a leader of the British Animal Liberation Front even condoned murder in an interview with the BBC: "In a war you have to take up arms and people will get killed, and I can support that kind of action by petrol bombing and bombs under cars, and probably at a later stage, the shooting of vivisectors on their doorsteps. It's a war, and there's no other way you can stop vivisectors."

This echoes statements made by Ronnie Lee, the founder of ALF in the mid 1070's. The British animal rights activists are among the most militant in the world, and in 1999 alone more than 1,200 violent incidents were recorded, among them several death treats.

This violent philosophy probably inspired Volkert van der Graaf to murder Pim Fortuyn, and possibly also a local environmental officer in 1996. In his teens, van der Graaf founded the Zeeland ALF, and later an even more extreme animal rights group -- Milieu Offensief. He is a strict vegan and against all forms of animal agriculture.

Ecoterrorism is nothing new to the U.S either. Since 1996 more than 600 cases of ecoterrorism have been recorded and the FBI believes that ecoterrorism is the greatest domestic terror threat. The most well-known incidents are the series of lethal bomb attacks perpetrated in the 1990's by Theodore Kaczynski, best known as the Unabomber. Kaczynski was a loner and not part of any organisation, but his Manifesto shares the anti-industrial and anti-technological sentiments of most deep ecologists.

Although the terrorist fringe of the environmental movement usually is labelled left-wing, it has more in common with the green wing of the German Nazi party. The fact that radical environmentalists are also staunch anti-capitalists does not necessarily place them in the left-socialist camp. The National Socialists where also strongly anti-capitalist. The Nazi's disregard for the individual and preoccupation with race is well known, but that this also had a distinctively green twist is less appreciated.

In his essay Fascist Ecology: The "Green Wing" of the Nazi Party and its Historical Antecedents, Peter Staudenmaier traces the origins of Green National Socialism and how it was implemented. I am indebted to him for most of the quotes below.

In his book National Socialism and the Religion of Nature the historian Robert Pois sums up the Nazi view of nature as a mixture of primeval teutonic nature mysticism, pseudo-scientific ecology, irrationalist anti-humanism, and a mythology of racial salvation through a return to the land. "Throughout the writings, not only of Hitler, but of most Nazi ideologues, one can discern a fundamental deprecation of humans vis-à-vis nature, and, as a logical corollary to this, an attack upon human efforts to master nature."

In Mein Kampf, Hitler wrote: "When people attempt to rebel against the iron logic of nature, they come into conflict with the very same principles to which they owe their existence as human beings. Their actions against nature must lead to their own downfall." Few people would blink at such a statement today. It is part of what Bjørn Lomborg calls the green Litany. The implications Hitler drew from this "iron logic" are, however, chilling. In this biocentric view, the individual is nothing, and for Hitler it was completely natural to label whole groups of people, such as the Jews and gypsies, as "weeds" and to treat them accordingly.

The prominent Nazi ideologue Alfred Rosenberg was, together with the agricultural minister Walther Darré, the chief proponent of Blut und Boden which emphasized the importance of reconnecting with the race and the land and fighting the evils of urbanisation and industrial society. Rosenberg wrote: "Today we see the steady stream from the countryside to the city, deadly for the Volk. The cities swell ever larger, unnerving the Volk and destroying the threads which bind humanity to nature; they attract adventurers and profiteers of all colours, thereby fostering racial chaos." This idea is closely connected to Nazi expansionism. Germany needed "Lebensraum" to the east, in order to be able to move back to a simple, agrarian society. Darré wrote: "The concept of Blood and Soil gives us the moral right to take back as much land in the East as is necessary to establish a harmony between the body of our Volk and the geopolitical space."

Staudenmaier writes that "Hitler and Himmler were both strict vegetarians and animal lovers, attracted to nature mysticism and homeopathic cures, and staunchly opposed to vivisection and cruelty to animals. Himmler even established experimental organic farms to grow herbs for SS medicinal purposes. And Hitler, at times, could sound like a veritable Green utopian, discussing authoritatively and in detail various renewable energy sources (including environmentally appropriate hydropower and producing natural gas from sludge) as alternatives to coal, and declaring 'water, winds and tides' as the energy path of the future."

The Nazi green ideology was most forcefully implemented by Walther Darré, agricultural minister from 1933 to 1942. He started a massive campaign for organic farming. As Darré undoubtedly is a pioneer of green politics, many greens have tried to downplay that he was a true Nazi, portraying him as a misguided idealist in alliance with the Nazi state almost by accident. Staudenmaier dismisses this and points to Darrés own writing, showing him to be a rabid racist and jingoist. Revealingly, he spoke of the Jews as "weeds". Staudenmaier sums up: "Far from embodying the 'redeeming' facets of National Socialism, Darré represents the baleful specter of ecofascism in power."

One of the first acts of Hitler's new government in 1933 was to push through the most progressive environmental policies in the world at the time. These measures included reforestation programs, bills protecting animal and plant species, and preservationist decrees blocking industrial development. For the first time in world history a law awarding rights to animals was enacted. The Nazi government also created the first nature preserves in Europe. The unprecedented Reichsnaturschutzgesetz of 1935 established guidelines for safeguarding flora, fauna, and "natural monuments". It also restricted commercial access to remaining tracts of wilderness.

Not all Nazis were greens and these policies were for the most part opposed by, among others, Göring and Goebbels. There was always a tension between Nazi modernisation and industrialisation, deemed necessary for the military build-up, and its agrarian reactionary sentiments. But Staudenmaier demonstrates that even the man responsible for industrialisation, Reichsminister Fritz Todt, had strong ecological sentiments.

The green strain of Nazism was in no way restricted to the leadership. According to a study of the membership rolls of several mainstream nature protection organisations, by 1939 fully 60 percent of them had joined the NSDAP (compared to about 10 percent of adult men and 25 percent of teachers and lawyers).

A quote from PETA founder Ingrid Newkirk (Washington Post, November 13, 1983), shows how far a biocentric view can lead to moral relativism and disregard for human suffering: "Six million Jews died in concentration camps, but six billion broiler chickens will die this year in slaughter houses."

 

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